Technology in agriculture

The impact of smartphones and apps on farming

Mike Hambly is a fast-moving farmer with an app for everything. See how smartphones are changing the way he manages his business.

Mike Hambly is the NFU’s arable board chairman, which means he is always on the move. Whether travelling to Brussels for meetings, walking his crops at Westcott Barton, Callington, or feeding his beef calves, he’s using one of a raft of apps on his phone to help him run almost every aspect of his business.

"Something I use all the time – although not an app – is the notepad," says Mike. "I record all the veterinary treatments as they happen, and send them straight to my computer. It saves having to find a scrap of paper and pen when you’re out on the farm."

Covering thousands of miles a year, both on and off the farm, Mike says the Road Trip app is useful, recording mileage, hours, fuel use and fuel efficiency for the whole farm fleet. "I also live by Milebug – which produces reports for all the mileage I do for different jobs – and Expensify, which enables you to produce expense reports by photographing invoices when you’re out and about."

For those seeking a truly practical use for their phone, torch apps often prove useful. Similarly helpful but hopefully less in use is the First Aid app, says Mike. "It doesn’t rely on an internet connection and is really useful for lone workers, giving you basic first aid advice in the event of an accident."

Most farmers have their favourite weather apps – for Mike it’s a combination of the Met Office and the BBC. An imperial/metric converter is similarly invaluable, enabling Mike to calculate grain storage requirements based on bushel weights.

"I use a few different grain merchants’ apps to follow the markets: I can be anywhere on the tractor and see what the price of grain is up to," he says. "I also use the seed app from seed supplier RAGT to calculate sowing rates, and Bayer’s weed and pest spotters to identify weeds when I’m out and about."

The Firestone Tyre Pressure Calculator app reminds Mike of the appropriate pressures for his tractors, while the Meters app enables him to record gas, electric and water meter readings as he travels around the farm. "You can compare usage to previous months and years, and it produces some good reports."

Others include the Farm Crap App – helping farmers to make the most of the nutrient value of manure – as well as those showing GPS direction, social media and online agricultural services.

"Really, the sky’s the limit," says Mike. "Not everything works: you have to be prepared to try things out. But I can’t live without my smartphone now – it does everything. Of course, if you lose it, it’s a dilemma, but at least with the cloud [data stored on external servers] you can still find everything back on the home computer."

Barclays does not endorse, recommend, verify, guarantee, approve, or certify any advice, information, or other services provided by the online services and apps mentioned in this article. Nor does Barclays guarantee the accuracy, completeness, efficacy, timeliness, legality, quality, applicability or correct sequencing of such advice, information or other services provided. Some online services and apps mentioned may also be chargeable.

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